In a biopic like Sarbjit, when your acting speaks louder than your number of scenes, when you are someone who believes in calling a spade a spade and when you effortlessly mould yourself into a sensuous cabaret dancer for your upcoming film; you are defined as Richa Chadha. It surely is a great time for the talented actor who has been drawing praise for her recent performances and is all set for the release of her next film Cabaret. In a candid chat with Pandolin, Richa talks about her films and throws light on turning producer for a short Punjabi film and directing a documentary on survivors of human trafficking.

Richa Chadda

Richa Chadda

Now that Sarbjit has released, what would you say about the mixed response that the film has received?

Obviously I’m not happy with the mixed response that the film has got. I’m just happy that across the reviews, my work is being appreciated. When I saw he film for the first time in Cannes I was very worried. By that standard, I’m quite happy.


How important is the opinion of critics for you as an actor?

Sometimes critics love a film and it doesn’t do well at the box office and sometimes they hate a film and it makes a lot of money. So it is very unpredictable. I do believe that there are critics who need to be respected and then there are critics who could be very well ignored.

A lot of people told you to not do Sarbjit, since Aishwarya Rai was also in the film. What made you stick to your decision? 

When I was passed the script, I found it to be a moving subject. It was definitely something which was not going to be ignored – whether or not people like it, hate it or it doesn’t do well at the box office. That was the reason I went ahead and did it. I don’t regret doing it. She (Aishwarya) is a star and we needed an actor like that (in the film).

What is your learning from this film?

My learning from this film is very different. It is rather personal. I learnt that no matter what, one must do their job well. No matter what everybody believes, does or tries to do to harm you; if you are honest in your work nothing can stop you.

In a still from Sarbjit

In a still from Sarbjit

Coming to your upcoming film Cabaret, how did that happen?

Cabaret was supposed to release this week but it got delayed as I couldn’t promote the film properly. Pooja (Bhatt, producer) came to me and she is someone whom I consider as a rockstar. She asked me if I’d do the film but I told her that I haven’t done a song and dance film. And she said that that’s why she wants me to do this. So I said let’s try it! I did it mostly as an experiment for the love of song and dance.


Besides your love for dance, did the fact that it was being produced by Pooja Bhatt also influence your decision?

Of course! The Bhatts are known for their good sense of music and also the way they present their heroines. So I really wanted to be a part of it.

What kind of brief did director Kaustav Narayan Niyogi share with you?

He told me, “Just forget who you are, your current positioning and just behave like a commercial heroine.” But I told him that I don’t know how to wear these kind of clothes or wear so much makeup. To which he said, “Just think that you are a new person.” And that was very exciting for me.

So did you also do some kind of research or homework for this role?

I just had to work with choreographers. And basically, I had to remove a lot of inhibitions. Sitting on a red horse and other things like that were a part of my inhibitions that I had to remove.


A still from Cabaret

A still from Cabaret

You’ve trained hard in dance forms like ballet and contemporary for Cabaret.

I did Kathak for almost ten years when I was growing up. I had to drop it because studies kept me busy. And now I’m back at it again. I’m soon going to do a crash course in LA to learn lyrical jazz which is a perfect mix of both lyrics and movement. Dance is something that I love and I think more filmmakers should explore that with me. They always ask me questions like, “Kya aap karoge? Aapka mann hai?”

What makes them think like that?

Well! They just assume that I might not like the concept of dancing.

Kaustav said that Cabaret is not just about song and dance, it is much more than that. Would you add to it?

If there was no content in it, I wouldn’t have said yes. It is the story of a girl who is running away from oppression. That is primarily how I would like to describe it. And it is an oppression that is common to all Indian women. When we are young, we are told that we should get good marks, then get married on time to a certain man, have kids etc.


The film chronicles the relationship between a small town girl making it big in the glamour industry and a fallen journalist. Is this character and her journey too dark?

I couldn’t relate to it because I’m not into oppression. But as a woman, I could identify with why things like that could bother anybody. Having said that, when you see the film, she is still a very empowered woman. She is dancing to get away from and overcome something. The dance is to express herself. She didn’t leave her house or small town thinking that she wants to be a dancer. It is not a tale of a girl who wants to be a great dancer or a big star.

In a still from Cabaret

In a still from Cabaret

Pooja Bhatt has been appreciating your work a lot. Tell us about your association with her?

It is an interesting bond because she has been an actor too. And she is also a director and producer. She understands what is going on in your head. And is able to guide you properly.

Did she tell you what made her choose you for this role?

Yes, she did. She said that I could have taken a dancer who could act or an actor who could dance. She preferred the latter.

You have also turned producer for the upcoming short Punjabi film Khoon Aali Chithi based on terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s due to the Khalistan movement in Punjab. Tell us more about your contribution to the project?  

I was born in Punjab. Having had some kind of personal experience with respect to the trouble which was there during that time, it makes this film very close to my heart. Rupinder (Singh, director) is a friend of mine. He made this very nice film and asked if I wanted to see it. The film is now complete. And we are doing preparations to send it to various festivals. It is something new for me because I haven’t done this earlier. I want to send it to as many festivals as I can. And then I would want to hold screenings for my friends from within the industry. I just want to make it accessible to everybody by perhaps putting it out on YouTube as well. People don’t make short films to make money. I want everyone to watch it. So that is my intention.

Hailing from Punjab, would you want to do a Punjabi film?

I would love to but it depends on what kind of a script I get. But I have been getting a lot of Punjabi film offers.


You’ve also directed a documentary of inspiring stories of women survivors who have been saved from human trafficking. What was the idea behind the documentary?

I have just shot it and am yet to edit it. We are doing it for a very specific purpose which is something that I would want to reveal later.

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Richa Chadha
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